A few words about our encounters with each of them may give you a glimpse of what our semester has held so far. We met Silvano recently during our eight days in Rome, though Barb had been in contact with him for many months regarding the possibility of using his small film house as our classroom for that week. He obliged and so we arrived at his cinema for class on a Saturday morning. Silvano greeted us briefly and then let us get settled into the decidedly funky theatre where he shows 360 classic films per year. Just about the time John Carlander was getting started with his opening lecture, Silvano reappeared to offer us a more extended welcome and to provide what can only be described as an impromptu philosophical discourse on nothing less than the meaning of life. An hour later, he burst into our class again for round two. Though none of us could tell you all that this admittedly eccentric seventy-something filmmaker and poet hoped to convey to our group, there was no mistaking his passion for 'the possibilities of humanity' and his lament for the puny lives led by too many.
It is hard to know what Silvano might think of the choices made by Father Dominic, one of the 23 canons who live together at the Abbey Saint-Martin de Mondaye. We spent three days there while visiting various historic sites in the Normandy region of France. Father Dominic was kind enough to spend part of one evening with us, giving us a behind-the-scenes tour of the cloister and an up-close-and-personal account of his life during the past twenty-five years (he is now 50) at the Abbey. With a winsome faith and a humble spirit, he conveyed the joys and trials of living, learning, and serving within a Christian community, pretty appropriate stuff for a Europe Semester group. When asked at the end of our conversation to comment on the spiritual condition of Europe, he acknowledged the great challenges facing the Church today, but also noted the pockets of real vitality that exist and then referred to Jesus’ promise to be with us to the end of the age and said, 'it is sufficient.'
Meeting Silvano and Dominic has given us windows into the soul of Europe. That’s something we’ve paid a good deal of attention to this fall, whether we have been studying the Reformations of the sixteenth century, the construction of national identities in the nineteenth century, the disastrous wars of the twentieth century, or the complexities of the euro-crisis in the twenty-first century. We are grateful for what Silvano, Dominic and their European peers, past and present, are teaching us about themselves and about ourselves."